Why benchmarking is important for golf clubs

Hillier Hopkins LLP

Chartered Accountants & Tax Advisers

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Any organisation operating in a competitive industry will benefit from benchmarking, but the practice has never been as critical to golf clubs as it is now. The industry is in a transitional period, with more clubs seeking to diversify and commercialise their offerings in the face of slowing membership growth.

Many clubs will have some big decisions to make in the near future, and benchmarking provides the critical insight needed to make sure they make the right decisions to remain competitive in the years ahead.

What is benchmarking?

Benchmarking is the practice of comparing information with competitors within an industry. By comparing figures against a mean average for a sector, organisations can effectively measure business performance, define best practices, and identify business opportunities. However, for many companies, acquiring the necessary information can prove challenging.

Many organisations are reliant on industry surveys and publications for the valuable insight they need to improve their performance, which is why Hillier Hopkins carries out an annual survey into the golf club industry.

Entering its 1​2th year, the survey provides a comprehensive overview of golf club industry performance and trends, and a critical benchmarking tool. We’re currently seeking participants for our 2017 survey, which you can access here.

Why you should be benchmarking

Last years’ survey pointed towards a changing climate in the golf club industry. With costs creeping up and customers increasingly favouring social golf over traditional membership, many clubs are having to reconsider their structure. This goes beyond simply evaluating income and expenditure, staff headcount and budgets.
Clubs are now tasked with scoping out potential new sources of revenue. This may mean diversifying offerings, introducing marketing promotions, or focusing more resources on existing areas of business which have potential to drive increased profits. Either way, any business decision along these lines needs to be fully informed.

How your club can benefit from benchmarking

Monitoring performance
An independent perspective on how your club is performing in relation to the competition can be invaluable. In addition to helping you set performance expectations over the coming months, a comprehensive view of the industry can help you drive efficiency and seize profit-making opportunities.

For example, you may find that your green fee charges are significantly lower than the UK average, or that other clubs are enjoying greater success as a result of investing more in their clubhouse. Staying up-to-date with industry trends is vital to the survival and success of your club, and it’s areas such as these that can make all the difference.

Informing decision makers
Great ideas are worthless if they aren’t acted upon, and the traditional golf club hierarchy unfortunately means that certain opportunities to improve performance may never be explored. For many golf club secretaries, the failure to gain the approval of committee members can prove a common hurdle to changes being made.

Being able to present external evidence, identifying where your club is underperforming and the areas that need attention, could prove key to getting board members on side, ensuring that reward-yielding strategic and investment decisions are made.

Planning for the future
Benchmarking doesn’t just concern the here and now. Our golf club survey asks each club about future plans, including their spending intentions on special projects. Securing this feedback means each of our survey participants gain a perspective into the direction that the golf club industry as a whole is heading. This can be treated as a source of strategic information which can help to guarantee that your club’s practices stay ahead of the curve.

Take part in our 2017 golf club survey now

In an already competitive marketplace, the changing habits of golfers mean golf clubs are under significant pressure to find new ways to bring in custom and drive profits. Those who are willing to invest a little bit of time partaking in this years’ survey will in return receive insight that could provide their club with a competitive edge.

To take part in the survey, please follow this link. Each participant will receive a copy of the survey report, the information within which is all anonymised. The survey itself will run until 31 October 2017. For a grasp of the insight that you can gain from taking part in our survey, download last years survey report here.

Robert Twydle heads up our specialist golf clubs team and you can contact him on 01923 634410 or email robert.twydle@hhllp.co.uk.

This ​article is written for general interest only and is not a substitute for consulting the relevant legislation or taking professional advice. The authors and the firm cannot accept any responsibility for loss arising from any person acting or refraining from acting on the basis of the material included herein.